One chapter in the history of the Anglican Church on Bell Island ended and another began on Saturday.
Two old churches were deconsecrated and the sod was officially turned on the future site of the replacement church/community centre.
The two places of worship were St Mary's in Lance Cove, built in 1948, and St. Cyprian's in Wabana, built 1928. Bishop Cyrus Pitman, of the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland, performed the short ceremonies.
Both churches have been closed since 2008 when the discovery of a significant mould problem forced local Anglicans to abandon them.
Local adherents to that denomination have been using the local Roman Catholic and United Churches for their services.
Saturday marked the first step toward Bell Island Anglicans getting back a home of their own, said Clayton Vokey, chair of the new church’s finance committee.
It’s going to be tough to raise the money, but it’s a challenge he looks forward to.
“I’ve committed the next year of my life to doing it,” he laughed.
Vokey is a retired RCMP officer who came home to Bell Island a couple of years ago.
He said he was looking for a way to help out his community and getting the church back on its feet seemed like a way to do that.
“It’s very empowering. I feel good being able to contribute to my local community.
“Hopefully it’s a positive step for Bell Island and for the Anglican parish,” he said.
A sizeable crowd gathered at both churches Saturday to say their goodbyes. By the time the second ceremony at St. Cyprian’s ended there were about 80-90 people sitting in the pews.
There were a lot of smiling faces as people traded stories. Many of them had been married, baptized or confirmed in one of the churches.
Many expressed their regret that the old buildings could not be salvaged, but those who spoke with The Telegram expressed acceptance that they were too far gone to be saved.
Most expressed happiness that pews, altars and other religious items were being kept in storage for use in the new church.
Ray Somerton grew up going to St. Cyprian's.
“It’s kind of a little sad. I don’t like to see the church go but they’re building a new one. It’s a good thing,” he said
While it’s important to remember the past, it’s equally important to look to the future, said Rev. Ron Lee.
Lee is retired but took over as spiritual leader of the Bell Island Parish several months ago. He’s also been a driving force behind the new church project.
“This is a good time for the people,” he said Saturday.
“They’ve had some problems with their buildings in the past, but they are coming together now.”
Planning for the new structure is still in its infancy so there are no solid plans in terms of eventual cost or a timeline for completion, he added, though fundraising has already started.
People are really getting behind the project, he said. He even joked that Anglicans on Bell Island have been “coming out of the woodwork” since the fundraising drive got started.
The parish plans on building a place for the whole community to gather, not just their denomination.
“We’re hoping that the building is going to be a building that can serve the community as well as being a worship centre, because nowadays it’s very difficult to heat and maintain a building for just a Sunday worship. So we have to have a very flexible building,” said Lee.
The fate of the newly deconsecrated buildings is still in question. No final decisions have been made yet in that regard, though St. Cyprian's will almost certainly be torn down to make way for the new church.
The new building’s name will reflect both of its predecessors and will be the Church of St. Cyprian & St. Mary.